Barbie was born in Bad Godesberg, near
Bonn, October 25, 1913. He joined the SS and later began a career in
espionage. In May 1941 Barbie was posted to the Bureau of
Jewish affairs, as an intelligence officer. He was then
attached the Amsterdam Gestapo and in November 1942 he was posted to
Lyon, France. While in France he was to penetrate and destroy the
resistance in Lyon and carried out his task with unmatched brutality.
Simone Lagrange, a soft-spoken Holocaust survivor whose family was
exterminated, later recalled the arrest of her father, mother and
herself on June 6, 1944. Denounced by a French neighbor as
Jews, Simone and her parents were taken to Gestapo headquarters
where a man, dressed in gray and caressing a kitten, said Simone was
pretty. Klaus Barbie ..
"He was caressing the cat. And me, a kid 13 years old, I could
not imagine that he could be evil because he loved animals. I was
tortured by him for eight days." During the following week,
the man hauled her out of a prison cell each day, he yanked her by
her hair, beating and punching at her open wounds in an effort to
Another survivor, Lise Lesevre, recalled how Klaus Barbie tortured
her for nine days in 1944, beating her, nearly drowning her in a
bathtub. She told how she was hung up by hand cuffs with spikes
inside them and beaten with a rubber bar. She was ordered to strip
naked and get into a tub filled with freezing water. Her legs were
tied to a bar across the tub and Barbie yanked a chain attached to
the bar to pull her underwater.
During her last interrogation, Barbie ordered her to lie flat on a
chair and struck her on the back with a spiked ball attached to a
chain. It broke a vertebrae, and she suffered the rest of her life.
Another survivor, Ennat Leger, said Klaus Barbie "had the eyes
of a monster. He was savage. My God, he was savage! It was
unimaginable. He broke my teeth, he pulled my hair back. He put a
bottle in my mouth and pushed it until the lips split from the
dedicated sadist, responsible for many individual atrocities,
including the capture and deportation to Auschwitz of forty-four
Jewish children hidden in the village of Izieu, Klaus Barbie owed
his postwar notoriety primarily to one of his 'cases', the arrest
and torture unto death of Jean Moulin, one of the highest ranking
member of the French Resistance.
Jean Moulin was mercilessly tortured by Klaus Barbie and his men.
Hot needles where shoved under his fingernails. His fingers were
forced through the narrow space between the hinges of a door and a
wall and then the door was repeatedly slammed until the knuckles
Screw-levered handcuffs were placed on Moulin and tightened until
they bit through his flesh and broke through the bones of his wrists.
He would not talk. He was whipped. He was beaten until his face was
an unrecognizable pulp. A fellow prisoner, Christian Pineau, later
described the resistance leader as "unconscious, his eyes dug
in as though they had been punched through his head. An ugly blue
wound scarred his temple. A mute rattle came out of his swollen lips."
Jean Moulin remained in this coma when he was shown to other
resistance leaders who were being interrogated at Gestapo
headquarters. Barbie had ordered Moulin put on display in an office.
His unconscious form sprawled on a chaise lounge. His face was
yellow, his breathing heavy, his head swathed in bandages. It was
the last time Moulin was seen alive.
behalf of his cruel crimes and specially for the Moulin case, Barbie
was awarded, by Hitler himself, the 'First Class Iron Cross with
After the war Klaus Barbie was recruited by the Western Allies and
worked for the British until 1947, then he switched his allegiance
to the CIA. With the aid of the Americans he fled in 1950
prosecution in France and relocated to South America together with
his wife and children.
He lived in Bolivia as a businessman under the name Klaus Altmann
from 1951. Klaus Barbie was identified in Bolivia at least as early
as 1971 by the Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, who has
devoted their life to searching out Nazi war criminals and bringing
them to justice. Beate and Serge Klarsfeld were almost
single-handedly responsible for bringing the infamous Barbie,
nicknamed the "Butcher Of Lyons", to trial for his crimes
But it was only in February 1983 that the Bolivian government after
long negotiations extradited him to France to stand trial.
Barbie, responsible for the torture and death of thousands of people,
was tried in a French court and sentenced to life imprisonment for a
series of crimes against humanity, almost all involving the arrest
and deportation to extermination camps of Jews and Resistance
members, including the roundup of the Jewish children from Izieu,
April 6, 1944.
Serge Klarsfeld later said it was Izieu, more than any other
atrocity laid to Klaus Barbie's account, that put the Nazi in the
category of major war criminals. "If Barbie was remembered and
hunted, it was for the children at Izieu", Klarsfeld said.
Klaus Barbie died of cancer in prison on September 25, 1991.
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